A marketing group is studying whether it can maintain a crowdfunding campaign for local musicians and service workers.
Pop-rock singer-songwriter Rachel Gollay has been performing in local venues for the past 10 years, solo and as frontperson for her eponymous band, and was deeply affected by the coronavirus pandemic that has wreaked havoc on local businesses and people. She knew some of her fellow musicians would be experiencing financial trouble after the SXSW music festival was cancelled in early March, the first time the event has been cancelled in its 34-year history.
More cancellations would soon follow.
“Any gigs I had on the schedule are off,” Gollay said. “I’m super-disappointed by that, but I’m super-lucky and privileged to have a salaried job that I’ve had for the last nine years.”
Her secure income made Gollay think she might be in a good position to establish and manage an online fundraising campaign to help bar staff and her fellow musicians.
“I just felt like it was my duty to pay it forward into the music scene that has supported me so much over the last decade or so,” she said.
On March 13 –– Friday the 13th, no less –– Gollay announced the Fort Worth Artist & Service Worker Relief Fund with a simple post on her Facebook page.
“Hoping we can come together to provide some relief to those hit hard,” she wrote. “Figuring this out as we go along. Please give/share or apply for funds.”
She had looked online at a relief fund for Seattle-area artists and crafted hers in similar fashion.
“I thought, ‘there is no reason we couldn’t do something like that here in Fort Worth,’ ” she said. “I essentially copied their model of having one central place for everybody to donate to and a basic Google form for folks to include their information and what kind of upcoming events or shifts got cancelled. The idea is to divide all that money up and get it out to the folks who applied.”
At the time, Fort Worth officials were resisting the decision to shut down bars and venues. Gollay set a goal of $5,000, hoping to provide small cash infusions to people in trouble. Money was pledged quickly, and she soon reached her goal.
“A lot of folks are looking for ways to support our local venues, industries, freelancers, musicians, and folks who are going to be hit really hard by all of this,” she said.
On March 14, Gollay had received 17 requests for assistance, most asking for help in the $100 to $300 range. She decided to send $200 to each applicant as quickly as possible. Local musicians, photographers, comedians, freelancers, bartenders, waitstaff, and visual artists were among the applicants.
“Most of them are concerned about immediate bills coming up,” she said. “Many of them are just trying to pay a phone bill, rent, groceries, tuition payments for schools … ‘anything you can send me would be a huge help,’ ” she said.
Later that week, however, Mayor Betsy Price announced the closure of all bars and restaurants except for takeout and deliveries. Applications to the fund soared. Gollay raised her donations goal to $10,000 and then capped it, realizing that overseeing a fund with that much money and that many applicants could become unmanageable in a hurry.
Gollay has been frustrated by GoFundMe’s delays in releasing the funds, she said.
“There has been a huge influx of new campaigns coming in, and [GoFundMe] has to do their due diligence and make sure there is nothing scammy going on on their platform,” she said. “They are totally slammed on their side. It’s a wild time.”
Once the funds are released, Gollay will provide $200 to 50 applicants. She hopes to distribute payments next week. One of those recipients will be James, a 23-year-old freelance sound engineer from Fort Worth who asked that his last name not be used.
“I live not from paycheck to paycheck but from gig to gig, band to band,” he said. “I was set up to work a few fairly large festivals –– SXSW is one of them –– that was to secure my income for the next two or three months. I’ve had all my gigs cancelled. To receive just a small amount means more than the world to me because it will allow me to pay my rent and keep a roof over my head. This $200 is a make or break for a lot of us.”
Gollay has been in discussions with Visit Fort Worth, the marketing organization for the city’s hospitality industry, and hopes to pass the baton to them, she said.
“Nothing set in stone yet, but it is on their radar to be boosting folks and helping them out and see if we can provide more support on a broader scale,” Gollay said.
A spokesperson at Visit Fort Worth said the organization is working on a plan to keep Gollay’s fundraiser going but isn’t able to share any details yet.